R.L. Smith Logging

Three Questions to Ask Before Buying a Log Loader

How to make the most of your next purchase

Allison McNeal

Knowing what questions to ask before buying a log loader can be difficult. However, by basing your decision on three important machine characteristics—performance, reliability, and comfort—you should feel confident that your purchase will fit your needs. Here are three simple questions to consider before your next log loader purchase.

1. How will the log loader perform?

When working in forestry applications such as timber harvesting, skidding, forwarding, and shovel logging, you want as much swing power, swing speed, and lifting power as you can get. Making sure the machine is running in the highest power mode is a crucial feature to look at when grabbing, moving, and placing your heaviest loads with a grapple attachment into a pile or onto a truck bed.

“Fuel consumption is a big topic of discussion in this industry,” says Mike Stark, Doosan log loader product specialist. “Many times fuel trucks can’t get to the log loaders because of the lack of accessible roads in the forest. It takes time and effort for operators to move their machine to the fuel truck. However log loaders that have an additional fuel tank don’t have to be filled up as often, saving operators time.”

For instance, the Doosan DX300LL-5 log loader has an Electronic Power Optimizing System (EPOS) that maximizes machine productivity while minimizing fuel consumption. This system connects the log loader hydraulic system and engine controls via a data transfer link. The power mode on Doosan log loaders helps improve cycle times in heavy-duty forestry applications.

Before you buy, make sure the log loader has a strong hydraulically mounted heel to stabilize the log. The heel works in tandem with a log grapple and allows you to easily grab the end of the log, swing it around, and lay it onto a truck bed or on the ground. Additionally, you should decide the height of cab riser you will need to effortlessly move logs into trucks or containers. Many log loader cab risers can be hydraulically tilted for easier transport.

R.L. Smith Logging
2. What can I do to minimize downtime?

When working in forestry applications, the last thing you want to happen is your machine breaking down. By making sure the machine has added upper-structure protection, undercarriage and cab guarding, and heavy-duty side doors with guarding over the hydraulic pump and cooling system access doors, you can maximize uptime. Additionally, a machine that has a high-walker undercarriage can protect your machine from debris and save you a tremendous amount of downtime.

“When operators are cutting down trees, they are continuously moving over stumps,” Stark says. “The stumps may not be that high, but since the forest is untouched, the ground is typically soft and can allow the machine to sink a bit. With the high-walker undercarriage, operators can get the extra height over the stumps and easily clear them without hanging up the machine.”

Additionally, many log loaders have full-length, track-guiding guards that support the tracks when moving over stumps. Log loader tracks can be fitted with heavy-duty single grouser shoes, giving you more traction when going up or working alongside hills.

To help save valuable diesel fuel, some log loaders have an auto-shutdown feature that automatically shuts down the machine during nonworking conditions. Many times operators can configure the idle time to approximately three to 60 minutes. When enabled, the feature will shut down the log loader’s engine when the preset idle time is met. Stark says this can be helpful when operators are waiting for loggers to cut down or cut up parts of trees with chainsaws.

Newer log loaders have online tracking devices—known as telematics—that track the log loader’s location, operating hours, fuel usage, and fleet status. These devices monitor fault and warning codes as well as allow you to review maintenance schedules. Gaining a better understanding of your equipment and reducing your operating costs is a win-win, according to Stark.

Choosing a log loader that has easily accessible service points, including wide door access for cleaning the cooling system, boom pivot bushings, and engine, helps you increase machine uptime and productivity.

Operators should get to know their dealer maintenance department well. Establish a working relationship with the dealer’s mechanics in the event that something happens and an operator needs an answer quickly. It could be something as simple as an error code on the display panel and can be resolved over the phone. In the end, it’s all about maximizing uptime.

3. What do I need to know about comfort features?

Operator comfort is a third and important consideration to assess before buying a log loader, especially for operators who work long days in forestry applications. Before buying, Stark says to check the machine to make sure it has ergonomic controls, a quiet cab, an adjustable suspension seat, proper lighting, good visibility to the working area, and a display monitor with machine parameters.

“Many times loggers are working in their machine from eight to 10 hours a day, or longer, starting before the sun rises and working after the sun sets,” Stark says. “When working in remote places, loggers generally can’t just hop out of their vehicle and take a lunch. So the cab has to be comfortable and roomy since they are pretty much living in the machine for the day. Good lighting is important, too, because of the long hours the logging companies work to stay on schedule.”

Other cab features that have a direct impact on operator comfort include ergonomic joystick controls that facilitate precise machine movements, adjusting up or down based on operator preference. Some log loaders have a rearview and optional side cameras to help loggers when backing up or swinging the machine to improve safe operating conditions.

Be sure to ask these critical questions and keep performance, uptime protection, and comfort in mind the next time you’re purchasing a log loader.


Log loader manufacturers offer customers a variety of options (may vary by model). Options may include the following:

  • LED lights
  • Side camera
  • Straight travel pedal
  • Block heater
  • Diesel-powered coolant heater
  • Fuel filler pump

Visit your local log loader dealer to best equip your next machine.

TimberWest November/December 2013
May/June 2016

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